Kevin McCullagh writes: It’s a sign of the times when The Economist, the house journal of the global business elite, holds a conference in London on ‘design thinking’ (official Big Rethink site here). Having attended the conference, produced in association with The Design Council and held over 11-12 March, I was left wondering one thing: why is design thinking such a hot topic with business leaders, given that it leaves so many designers cold?

The conference’s brilliant chair, Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, a global correspondent for The Economist and author of Zoom, began by throwing down a hefty gauntlet to design. He explained that the world faces crises on many different levels, not only economic and environmental: politicians and corporate leaders are also experiencing a profound crisis of trust and legitimacy. This, in turn, has triggered a loss of confidence in the old ways of doing things and has led business and governments to cast around for new ideas. As design thinking is offering itself up as a process to solve many of these problems, what has it got to offer? Gulp!

Well, I, for one, am excited by the challenge, and the opportunities such profile building gives the field….


One thought on “legitimate?

  1. Because the design process involves multiple stakeholders and multiple possible outcomes! It’s what Rittel (1973) called a “wicked problem” which is parallelled in business by its own complexity. Systems thinking is one solution to this problem, and the cyclical design process is another. This involves stakeholder involvement, signoff and the ability to iterate the design solutions. Design, test/evaluate, redesign. Place this flexibility and process into business and you solve many stakeholder problems.
    Designers struggle with this complexity and one solution for novices to this complexity is the use of design pattern languages (Alexander et al. 1977). Designers lead the world in innovation (invention + application) and how they problem solve can inform other complex systems.

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